Chef Ana Sortun Creates Cook At Home ‘Chef Set’ Kits
Ana Sortun never wanted to go into retail.
The acclaimed chef-owner of Oleana and Sofra Bakery, and co-owner of Sarma, was perfectly happy building her restaurant and farm empire. Sortun’s husband, Chris Kurth, is the owner of Sudbury’s Siena Farms, which grows more than 100 different varieties of organic crops and supplies Oleana with its produce. But after being approached by nutritionists from SetPoint Health, a health care company based in Newton Upper Falls, she quickly changed her mind.
Together they created Chef Set Meals, an easy-to-use kit that supplies a quick-cooking whole grain, spices (which Oleana is famous for), and a garnish. You add three fresh ingredients like a meat or fish and some produce, and you’re left with a wholesome meal for that took less than 30 minutes to cook. Bonus: The whole thing is fewer than 500 calories.
“It was a serendipitous thing,” Sortun says. “The intention wasn’t to create a retail product; it’s to help people who don’t cook learn how to cook, and to try to provide a tool to walk someone through a fairly sophisticated recipe in a short amount of time involving simple skills like chopping a chicken or onion to compete it.”
Still, working from a health and nutrition angle was new to Sortun, who’s used to worrying more about flavor than calories.
“All the meals had to be substantial, and honestly, it’s like working backwards. I’m used to starting with fresh ingredients and then working into the spices, grains, seeds, and nuts, whereas with this I had to start with the spices and build on those,” Sortun says. “It was a great exercise. I found that when I started with the spices it didn’t need more to make it deep and rich; it didn’t need an extra half-cup of feta cheese.”
The Turkish the flavors will remind you of Oleana, Sortun says, but the steps and technique are simple. Also, the beef and pistachio kabob is straight out of Sortun’s cookbook, but unless you’re a wiz in the kitchen, don’t expect your meal to taste exactly like something you’d get at Sarma. Sortun says that for those who don’t cook and want to learn, this is the perfect first step. For those who already cook, these kits will give you an opportunity to mix things up and try different ingredients.
“If I gave you the recipe for [one of these], you’d have to go to a couple of different places to find the ingredients and spend more than $30,” Sortun says. “[The kits] save you time shopping, too. It was a labor of love this project, and my intention was to help people learn how to cook and feel confident about making something healthy and great.”
Right now, there are four kits available for purchase at Siena Farms, Sofra Bakery, and all New England Whole Foods, retailing at $6.49. And actually, at the Boston magazine cafeteria, aka Whole Foods Symphony, the kits are on sale for $4.49 throughout the month of August.
Sortun says that she is currently working on six new kits which she hopes will hit stores within a year.